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Molokini Crater Maui

Molokini Crater is Maui’s Top snorkeling site.  Molokini is unique because of its location off shore and exceptional visibility.  The crystal-clear tropical waters are home to an array of fish and other unique species of marine life that seek shelter inside the crescent shaped volcanic caldera. Today, Molokini Crater is a protected Marine Life Conservation District and has been declared a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. Join us and see why Molokini is considered one of the best snorkeling sites that Maui has to offer.

Molokini Crater Snorkel & Dive Sites

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What You Can Expect to See While Snorkeling at Molokini Crater

Molokini is home to approximately 230 species of fish (some of which are found nowhere else) and a variety of marine life. On most days, the water is crystal clear with more than 150 feet of visibility. Marine life you may encounter while snorkeling in the crater is a large array of tropical fish, coral reefs, eels, monk seals, octopuses (tako), an occasional manta ray, and unique lava formations. Additionally, you can see Humpback whales during whale season (December through March).


Molokini does not have a sand beach. The cove slopes downward to approximately 100 feet before dropping off deep into the ocean floor. The bottom of the cove contains sand patches, coral, basalt rocks, and boulders.

Reef Fish

Marine Life

What you can expect to see while snorkeling or Snuba diving in the crater: The Hawaii state fish humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (humu for short), triggerfish, tangs, parrotfish, butterflyfish, trumpetfish, needlefish, wrasse, pufferfish, angelfish, clownfish, ,moorish idols, eels, octopuses, manta rays, and even whale sharks sometimes frequent these waters.  In winter months, humpback whales have been known to enter the cove. During whale season you can hear and see whales during our daily tours.


Bird Sanctuary

Molokini is owned by the federal government and is a protected Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. Molokini Crater is home to two species of nesting birds: Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Bulwers Petrels. Shearwaters have a thin beak and feed on fish crustaceans. Bulwer’s Petrels spend most of their time at sea and are quite small, yet have a long wingspan and are known for breeding on the north Pacific Islands (Hawaii and China).


Nature Preserve

Molokini islet is the southern rim of an extinct volcanic crater that is located about 3 miles off of Maui’s south coast. The only way to access the crater is by boat. Molokini and the surrounding 77 acres are a Marine Life Conservation District and Bird Sanctuary, which was established in 1977.

The Marine Life Conservation Districts separated into two subzones; Subzone A and B. Subzone A includes the cove and ends at a line that extends from the end of the ridge that is submerged at Lalilali Point to Pahe‘e O Lono Point. Subzone B extends out 100 yards from Subzone A surrounding the islet.


The concave shape of Molokini protects divers and swimmers from waves and strong currents and allows us to see about 230 diverse species within the tropical sanctuary.

Coral Reef
Colorful Coral Reef
Reef Fish
Four Winds II Maui Molokini Crater Snorkel Tours
Tropical Fish
Four Winds II Maui Molokini Crater And Coral Gardens Snorkel Tours Humunukunukuapuaa  E
School Of Fish
Fish And Coral Reef
Plants Under The Sea
Reef Fish
Colorful Fish

Molokini: A Unique Snorkel Experience

Molokini remains at the top of the list of “must see” destinations when on Maui. The snorkeling is some of the best in all of Hawaii and has been voted as a top reef snorkel site. The back side of the crater is considered to be one the 10 best dive spots in the world.

Located just a few miles off Maui’s rugged Makena coast, lies the alluring, sunken volcanic crater of Molokini. Only three sheltered volcanic calderas still exist, with Molokini being one of them. Here the crystal-clear tropical waters are home to an array of fish and other unique species of marine-life that all seek shelter inside this beautiful crater.

Due to the protective shelter the crater provides, snorkeling at Molokini is extremely safe. Our trusty crew is always available, both inside and outside the water, to assist and make sure you get the most out of your snorkel experience.


It is illegal to touch the crater, feed or harass the marine animals and to remove anything from Molokini’s waters. The Four Winds II believes in protecting the crater and we work hard to protect the sanctity of Molokini.

The Hawaiian Legend of Molokini

The fire goddess, Pele, was in love with a prince (who also happened to be a gecko or Mo’o.) The prince fell in love with another woman, and in her fury, Pele took her revenge, by cutting the woman in half. The head of the body became Pu’u Olai, which is the cinder cone mound on the north end of Makena Beach (Big Beach.) The body fell into the ocean and became Molokini Crater.

Whichever explanation on the creation of Molokini you choose to believe, Molokini remains at the top of the list of “must see” attractions when on Maui. The snorkeling is some of the best in all of Hawaii. What makes this a truly special experience is being far off the coast of Maui (approximately 3 miles) and within the shelter and protection of Molokini’s unique shape and seeing species of fish that you normally would not see by just snorkeling Maui’s coastline.

The back-side, or “the back-wall” as it is called, boasts some of the most advanced diving for scuba divers. It is considered, by some, to be one of the 10 best dive spots in the world.

The Four Winds II is proud to assist in the conservation and protection of this special area and we strive to also help educate everyone we take snorkeling. Molokini is certainly a special place and we maintain one of the best mooring positions within the crate (dropping anchor is strictly prohibited to protect the fragile coral).

Molokini’s History

Although calm and pristine today, Molokini has had a very tumultuous past. Thousands of years ago, Molokini was quite different and began as a violent underwater, volcanic eruption. What you see today is actually the remains of a giant cinder cone that rose above the surface and erupted approximately 230,000 years ago. Hundreds of ancient cinder cones can be found all around Maui, but Molokini is unique and it rose from the deep ocean floor to reach above the water. Many of these cones never break the surface of the water and only erupt below the surface.

During World War II, the United States Navy decided to use Molokini for target practice because of its unique shape resembling a battleship. Thankfully this was only done temporarily during the war and the U.S. Navy stopped this practice. Fortunately, because of nature’s amazing ability to recover, and with the help of careful protection, conservation methods and laws, Molokini is once again alive with marine life and pristine beautiful water.

What causes these cones to occur?
When our islands were young, molten lava flowed beneath the surface of the ocean through porous tubes. These tubes trapped water within their rocky structure. When the flowing lava heated this water to a temperature in excess of 100 degrees Celsius, the water turned to steam and caused the earth to bulge and form a cone-like shape. Some of these cones actually exploded. Rock and cinder spewed into the sky and part of the cone’s walls would collapse. Along with the water erosion, from the ocean waves, this is what created the familiar crescent shape we know today as Molokini crater.


Did you know:

  • Molokini is one of the words three remaining volcanic calderas in the world (the second one also in Hawaii of the coast of Kauai)
  • Because Molokini is a partially submerged crated with steep cliff lines in the back and a gentle slope in the front it allows for clear water and some of the best snorkeling in the world.
  • The island is a protected nesting area for two distinct species of seabirds.
  • Recent archaeological evidence shows that the ancient Hawaiians ventured out to Molokini hundreds of years ago to fish. It is also believed that Hawaiians may have harvested seabirds, eggs and feathers.
  • The exact location of Molokini can be located using the GPS coordinates of 20.632617, -156.495958.
Four Winds II Maui Molokini Crater Snorkel Tours Octopus

Molokini Conservation

The Four Winds II is proud to assist in conservation and protection of the coral reefs surrounding Maui, Hawaii. We strive to help educate everyone we take snorkeling. We encourage guests to use Reef Safe Sunscreen (also offered onboard all our vessels) and ask you to not touch marine life as it can be damaging to the fragile coral and ecosystem.

Molokini Crater Fun Facts:

  1. Molokini is world renowned for its exceptional water clarity with visibility up to 150 feet.
  2. The volcanic crater formed from an eruption that occurred about 230,000 years ago.
  3. Molokini is home to about 250 types of marine species.
  4. There are 38 diverse types of hard coral species inside Molokini Crater.
  5. The island is home to at least 2 distinct species of nesting seabirds.
  6. Molokini is a Marine Life Conservation District and the island is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary.
  7. Molokini’s literal translation means “many ties”.
Four Winds II Maui Molokini Crater snorkel tours
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